House starts tackling calls for PH cooperation with ICC

House starts tackling calls for PH cooperation with ICC

/ 05:32 AM November 23, 2023

House starts tackling calls for PH cooperation with ICC

Former President Rodrigo Duterte. (File photo from Malacañang)

Two committees of the House of Representatives on Wednesday started tackling measures urging the government to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation of the bloody war on illegal drugs during the term of Rodrigo Duterte as president and when he was longtime mayor of Davao City.

The Committee on Justice and the Committee on Human Rights met on Wednesday to deliberate on House Resolution (HR) Nos. 1393 and 1477 that were filed separately by five lawmakers. They later decided to pause the discussions to allow both panels to invite resource persons from the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies.


They are also waiting for House Resolution No. 1482, a similar initiative filed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Tuesday, to be referred to the two panels for action.


Gabriela Women’s party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, one of the authors of HR 1393 filed in October this year, said the families of those killed in the drug war should also be invited to the hearings.

Some of the Makabayan bloc’s guests during Wednesday’s hearing were two women—Jane Lee and Emily Soriano—whose relatives fell victim to alleged extrajudicial killings.

Administration allies

HR 1393 was the first measure to call on the government to cooperate with the ICC’s investigation of the alleged crimes against humanity committed under Duterte’s antinarcotics campaign.

In her sponsorship speech for it, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro cited Duterte’s televised admission in October that he used intelligence funds to bankroll extrajudicial killings during his term as Davao City mayor.

The call gained traction after two pro-administration lawmakers — Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., chair of the House human rights panel, and 1-Rider party-list Rep. Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez — filed on Monday HR 1477 calling on government agencies to “extend their full cooperation” to ICC prosecutor Karim Khan in his investigation of the drug war.

Both HR 1393 and HR 1477 were referred to the House justice panel, which immediately scheduled a Wednesday hearing on the measures.


However, it turned out that a similar resolution, HR 1482, was filed by Lagman on Tuesday and this has yet to be referred to the House justice committee.

Lagman’s measure said the ICC investigation “would be an effective transitional justice mechanism to exact accountability from those responsible for the massive human rights violations and provide the victims the necessary remedies and reparation, as well as guarantees of nonrepetition.”

Renewed hopes

Lagman noted how opposition lawmakers had been pressing the government to cooperate with the ICC and that members of the majority might have already “changed their minds” on the matter.

“I think some in the majority changed their views, that we should follow the rule of law and world order, and we should fully cooperate with the ICC prosecutor’s investigation. We shouldn’t be a renegade in the international order,” Lagman told reporters after Wednesday’s hearing.

Asked what he thought were the House majority’s reasons for changing its mind, the Albay lawmaker said: “Your guess is as good as mine.”

“I think there are valid reasons, really, why the administration might need to change its decision on this,” Lagman added.

He said the country has “waited long enough” to cooperate with the ICC probe and shed light on the extent of the deaths in antinarcotics operations and vigilante-style killings during Duterte’s term.

“What are we waiting for? We should show the whole world that we are not renegades and that we will follow the international rule of law or world order,” Lagman noted.

Call on Marcos

He expressed hope that President Marcos would “consider Congress’ sentiments” and that government agencies could likewise change their minds “if they see that it is correct for the Philippines to cooperate with the ICC investigation.”

Human rights groups shared Lagman’s optimism.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch, the Philippine Coalition for the ICC (PCICC), and Karapatan called on more lawmakers to support the resolutions.

“The Marcos government should do right by the victims of the drug war and the Davao Death Squad and assist the ICC investigation into alleged crimes against humanity,” said Bryony Lau, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“A change of hearts for justice by our legislators and the executive branch of government is a step in the right direction,” echoed PCICC chair Aurora Parong.

More importantly, said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, they “provided a glimpse of hope to victims of the drug war and their families in their quest for justice and accountability.”

Thousands killed

As per official records, Duterte’s antidrug campaign led to about 6,000 deaths, although human rights watchdogs and the ICC itself estimated the toll to be between 12,000 and 30,000 from 2016 to 2019 alone.

In March 2018, then-President Duterte withdrew the Philippines’ membership in the Rome Statute that established the international high court.

In 2021, the Supreme Court said the ICC had jurisdiction over the alleged commission of crimes lodged against Duterte.

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After assuming office in mid-2022, President Marcos said he would not cooperate in the ICC investigation “in any way, shape or form,” maintaining that the court no longer had jurisdiction over the country after the withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

TAGS: crimes against humanity, ICC drug war probe, International Criminal Court, Rodrigo Duterte

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